Another one of the best times of year is here upon us. Fortunately, the timing could not be better. As of this writing, the hometown Cincinnati Reds are mired in a 1-9 slump since the All-Star Game. This team has a penchant to strike out during inopportune times, ran bases haphazardly and generally lacks the ability to hit a baseball. For a team that held such promise back in March, this team is falling fast; the only thing left is to hear the thud once they hit rock bottom and with the Chicago Cubs in the division, that might take a while.
Anyway, don’t look now, but it is football season. This past week, all across this great nation, the 32 teams of the National League Team have donned the pads and are going through the summer grind of training camp. In the sake of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of the Arizona Cardinals. I have followed this team ever since they pulled out of their former home in St. Louis and moved to their new home in the desert. Growing up, most kids were, of course, fans of the local teams, the Browns and Bengals. Other teams that were well-represented included the Cowboys, Raiders and Steelers. No one I knew decided to ride the Cardinal bandwagon. Knowing that the team was in a new home, I felt sorry for the team and from that point forward, I adopted them as my very own.
As many fans can attest, it hasn’t been the prettiest of rides. I can remember struggling through many 3-13 and 4-12 seasons. Some seasons, a victory was seemed as a true reason for celebration and something to truly savor. It is as if I knew that the next week when I would scan the newspaper for the score, the result would be an Arizona loss.
But, like everything, things change. If I had to put my finger on when things changed it had to be a nondescript game the Cardinals played in early November against the Redskins. At the time, the Cardinals were 2-6 and in a three-game tailspin. Miracle of miracles, the Cardinals won this game 16-15 on the back of Jake Plummer. Two days later, voters in Maricopa County, Ariz., approved a public financing proposal that lead to the construction of University of Phoenix Stadium. Many a fan believes that if the Cardinals dropped that game, there would be no financing proposal and no stadium. Since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, the team has become one of the most competitive in the league. They went to the Super Bowl and won two division titles; they have won 60 games since 2006.
Back to the present, it’s training camp time. It’s time for the 90 guys to prove to the coaches and team management that they are worth keeping for the season. The worst part is only 53 will make it. For some of these athletes, the dream will end. They will be given a copy of the proverbial home game and go back to live their lives back home.
I’ll admit it, I feel sorry for those guys that don’t make the final roster. There are no guaranteed contracts for these athletes; if they don’t make the final 53, they don’t get paid. Without a doubt, they work hard and they are dedicated. They spend their time and energy trying to be a professional athlete and that can’t be easy, especially if they have other jobs, families and other responsibilities. For many of these athletes on the outside looking in, they are looking for that one lucky break. They have been through tryouts, they have been through the offseason work. For some, an untimely injury has set them back only to see their dreams taken by someone else. For others, what God may not have given them in talent, they are trying to make up for in dedication and hard work. These men certainly have my respect.
And soon, it will be kickoff weekend. I am sure that first weekend a lot of us will be huddled around our televisions or watch our team hopefully bring home a win. Fall can’t be that far behind.